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Well this sounds like a pretty vague question but please bear with me.

I know of how Gaiaonline gave gold to people who participated in forum posts.

I'm curious if in theory these could be applied to social aspects of games like Second life or Sims Online.

The question what would be specific quantifiable actions/interactions could be measured tracked for rewards and achievements that would help build a community?

(this'll probably end up as community wiki though)

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are many in-game social actions that can be tracked trivially, because they're already going to be database transactions:

  • Joining a team, and leading a team.
  • Joining a guild, and founding a guild.
  • Putting items up for auction.
  • Creating public spaces for other players.

Additionally, your game systems can provide some affordances for socially-driven players:

  • Contests - costume contests, minigame (e.g. fishing) contests, point-to-point races. Players will host these events anyway. If you provide even minimal systematic hooks for them, you can track and reward them.
  • Newbie help zones / tutorials.
  • Community approbation (Stack Overflow's approach). Most games have some way to "downvote" other players. Provide a way to "upvote" them too.

As for rewarding, a key point missed by many designs is that you need to award like with like to motivate people. Reward the players that progress in your combat with the +5 sword; reward the players that create your social spaces with socially-visible items like titles, clothing, or emotes.

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'like with like' has been an issue in game design since DnD (before?). It's much easier to reward players for killing things than it is to reward players for making the game richer. –  deft_code Sep 20 '10 at 14:59
    
Whether D&D rewards like with like is entirely up to the quality of your DM. D&D per se only prescribes combat rules and combat rewards; if your DM invented social rules but not social rewards, that's a crappy DM, not D&D's fault. –  user744 Sep 20 '10 at 15:41

So first of all, most "pure social" games still have a lot of economics going on so there's a lot of economy-related stuff you could give achievements for. But assuming you mean the more social-type things, you could give achievements for:

  • Participating in a poll
  • Upvoting/downvoting something X number of times (I remember A Tale in the Desert had challenges where, for example, a player had to get their sculptures voted favorably by denizens of the world -- this would reward voting for that thing)
  • Joining the forum
  • Posting to the forum and having that post upvoted/thanked (to address the spam issue brought up by Lo'oris)
  • Karma-type rewards that can be bestowed by other players

Honestly, you would do well to look at the Badges system on this very website, as well as karma systems in places like Reddit.com. They do a relatively good job of encouraging users to be social in constructive ways.

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I don't know how Gaia online does, but beware that doing such a thing you might actually make both the forums and the game a worst place: people will spam the forum (ruining it) just to get gold in game, where they will have an unfair advantage over other people (ruining the game too).

You must be careful to give this kind of rewards somehow only if you did something to earn it, not just farming posts or stupid things like that.

Moreover, you will probabily want not to give actual game gold, but nice stuff, like the pet companions in wow that have no effect on gameplay but are cute.

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It depends entirely at what the defined actions will be. But the problem is it's hard to define quantifiable social actions. –  Wight Sep 20 '10 at 10:33
    
I don't see any possible satisfying solution. Even if you gave "prizes" that bear no in-game power, and even if you gave them to selected users such as "you make a contest in the forum, who wins gets the prize", it would still screw the results: people would vote who they want to get the prize instead of voting who did the best work. –  Lohoris Sep 20 '10 at 14:36
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@ Lo'oris If the context is social actions I don't think that is contrary to the overall intended goal if people base who the vote for on social interactions. –  lathomas64 Sep 20 '10 at 21:50
    
@lathomas64: if you make a drawing contest and people vote their friend instead of voting the best drawing, it is totally bad. –  Lohoris Sep 21 '10 at 8:23
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If the point of the drawing contest was to reward the best artists then I'd agree. If the point of the contest was to encourage social interaction though I don't agree that this is "totally bad" and in fact has achieved exactly what you wanted. –  lathomas64 Sep 21 '10 at 11:14

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